Testing Your Helium Antenna & Placement With A GLAMOS



Do you have the best anten­na for your loca­tion? What kind of cov­er­age is your Heli­um Hotspot pro­vid­ing? Is the loca­tion you’ve iden­ti­fied as good on Helium.Vision actu­al­ly that good?

The way to answer these ques­tions defin­i­tive­ly is to test your set­up. No amount of sim­u­la­tion, pre­dic­tion, or just think­ing (or even hop­ing) will replace the stone-cold facts of an actu­al test.

Testing Helium Antennas with the GLAMOS

I’ve cov­ered a few ways to test var­i­ous com­po­nents, but this time we’ll dig in to where the rub­ber meets the road: 

QUESTION: How will a specific antenna at a specific proposed location actually perform?

Let’s start by defin­ing what kind of data you’d need to answer that question.

First, you’re going to want to know if your ANTENNA is actu­al­ly work­ing, and how well it’s working.

Sec­ond, you’ll want to know HOW MANY Hotspots your pro­posed loca­tion can be wit­nessed by. Since bea­cons & wit­ness­es are two sides of the same coin, it’s pret­ty rea­son­able to assume that “if they can hear you, you can hear them.” Yes, that’s an assump­tion. Yes, I’m famil­iar with the assump­tion ASS-U-ME prob­lem. This par­tic­u­lar assump­tion is very like­ly to be use­ful, though it may not be as accu­rate as we’d like. 

Third, if you plan on actu­al­ly using the Heli­um Net­work (which is where all the long term prof­its are), a test should show you what kind of cov­er­age your pro­posed loca­tion will pro­vide beyond just being wit­nessed by oth­er Hotspots.

I’m using a GLAMOS Walk­er, along with its com­pan­ion app/site, to do my testing.

Here’s how it works in broad strokes, then we’ll dig into the details.

1. Set up the GLAMOS.

2. Take the GLAMOS to your proposed location, attach the antenna(s) you’re going to use or test, and fire off a bunch of beacons.

3. Head back over to the GLAMOS app to see your results.


The set up is straight­for­ward. Slaven, the cre­ator of the GLAMOS, gives world class sup­port, so if you get stuck when you’re going through the direc­tions, check in on the Dis­cord #glam­os chan­nel for help from him or the GLAMOS community.

The first thing to do is cre­ate an account over on the GLAMOS app, then fol­low the instruc­tions below. I’ve includ­ed both Slaven’s demo video as well as a writ­ten out version.

  1. Go to the GLAMOS app, then cre­ate an account or sign in.
  2. Go to Devices on the top menu, and Add Device

Now add in the Ser­i­al Num­ber and DevEUI of your device. You should have received an email with these when you bought the GLAMOS, so you can just copy/paste ’em in. Or, like me, you can miss the email, turn the GLAMOS on and go to Set­tings –> Keys then man­u­al­ly type ’em in. 

Trust me, you should use the copy/paste option. 🙂 

Ok, so you might think now that all you’ve got to do is attach the anten­na you want to test, head to your loca­tion, and mash that SENDONCE button. 

Not so fast, tur­bo. You need to add in the gate­ways (aka Heli­um Hotspots) you want to test. That could be a large area, or it could just be the deploy­ment net you’re using. If you’d like to test all the gate­ways with­in a radius of a point, you’ll need to set that up. Here’s how:

Go to the Menu bar at the top of the app and click on Gate­ways, then click on the Add Gate­way button.

Every Gate­way has to know what Serv­er it’s going to use. In this case, we’re using Heli­um, but the GLAMOS can also be used for oth­er pro­to­cols & projects.

Now you’ve got a choice: Do you want to test a very spe­cif­ic part of the Net­work, say a few Heli­um Hotspots you’ve deployed to see if they can “see” each oth­er, or do you want to do test­ing of all gate­ways over a wider area? I want­ed to test a cou­ple anten­nas over a wide area, so I chose “Add all gate­ways in range to serv­er”, like this:

Select a cen­ter point and a radius, then let ‘er rip. 

Back in the Gate­ways menu you’ll now see your new Serv­er, woohoo! Cool, so now your GLAMOS knows what to do. Next up is telling it who to do it with. You’ll need to get it con­nect­ed to your Con­sole account on the Heli­um Net­work. Yep, the data cred­its to run this thing will come from your account. Relax, it’s pennies.


Slaven, the cre­ator of the GLAMOS, has made a lit­tle vid for ya on how to nav­i­gate this.

Just in case you need that decoder script link from the video, here it is. The one I start­ed with is below, but that’s being updat­ed all the time. Use the link for the lat­est version.

function Decoder(bytes, port) { 
  // Decode an uplink message from a buffer (array) of bytes to an object of fields. 
  //Decoder for GLAMOS Walker device. 
  var decoded = {}; 
  decoded.latitude = ((bytes[0]<<16)>>>0) + ((bytes[1]<<8)>>>0) + bytes[2]; 
  decoded.latitude  = (decoded.latitude / 16777215.0 * 180) - 90; 
  decoded.latitude = +decoded.latitude .toFixed(7); 
  decoded.longitude = ((bytes[3]<<16)>>>0) + ((bytes[4]<<8)>>>0) + bytes[5]; 
  decoded.longitude = (decoded.longitude / 16777215.0 * 360) - 180;
  decoded.longitude = +decoded.longitude .toFixed(7); 
  var altValue = ((bytes[6]<<8)>>>0) + bytes[7]; 
  var sign = bytes[6] & (1 << 7); 
    decoded.altitude = 0xFFFF0000 | altValue; 
    decoded.altitude = altValue; 
  decoded.ant  = bytes[8]; 
  decoded.accuracy = 3; 
  decoded.position_num = bytes[9]; 
  return decoded; 

Ok, so now your GLAMOS Walk­er is set up, it’s con­nect­ed to the Heli­um Net­work and you’re ready to start test­ing. Nice work!


If you have anten­nas with N‑type fit­tings (many of them do), you’ll need an adap­tor to go from the GLAMOS to the anten­na. Cur­rent GLAMOS have a lit­tle con­nec­tor-adap­tor kit. I bought mine a while ago, so mine did­n’t. I mean, you know me: I would’ve made cables anyway. 

You can order cus­tom cables from McGill Microwave. I’d rec­om­mend 4–5′ of LMR 240, and get SMA-Male and N‑Male con­nec­tors. Obvi you can use the GLAMOS to test anten­na cables as well, so if you want to get wild order dif­fer­ent lengths and types, but for now we’ll keep it simple.

Cables are gen­er­al­ly a good idea because stand­ing too close to the anten­na when you test it can skew the results. I made one that was 4′ long so I can sit at the base of my test­ing rig and work the GLAMOS away from the antenna. 

I start by check­ing to make sure the anten­na is actu­al­ly work­ing and all my con­nec­tions are good. For this, I use a lit­tle VNA I got off Bang­good, though you can get ’em off Ama­zon as well. Here’s a VSWR read­ing of 1.267 off the HNTen­na, excel­lent as usu­al. For the pur­pos­es of this test we just want to make sure the VSWR is low­er than 2. All of the anten­nas in this test were between 1.175 and 1.367. So far, so good.

Now to test with the GLAMOS! I fol­lowed Slaven’s advice and set up the GLAMOS to send 10 mes­sages each time. I did that 2 times for each anten­na, so I had decent num­bers to work with. 

You can find this set­ting in the GLAMOS under SENDMULTI –> SAME SF(loop) — REPEAT (set that to 10x). 

The read­ings off a sin­gle pack­et don’t give you enough data to make a good deci­sion. Data cred­its are cheap as chips, so burn ’em up. In this case I test­ed 5 anten­nas 20 times each, and with a few mis­fires I man­aged to spend 277 DC. Whoop de doo. You get 10,000 DC for $1 US

I spent the next hour just mount­ing, con­nect­ing, test­ing, dis­con­nect­ing, mount­ing, recon­nect­ing, test­ing, disconnecting…

Once you’re done test­ing, head back to a com­put­er and pull up the GLAMOS app so you can dig into the data. You can look at the data on the GLAMOS in the field if you want, but I like big screens. On your desk­top in the app, go to Ana­lyt­ics, select the Device, Date, Time, and Type of test, then fil­ter and fid­get and sort to your heart’s delight.

The results from this test of 5 anten­nas were pret­ty cool, at least for me. I test­ed the HNTen­na, a Laird 6 dBi, 2 eBay cheap­ies, and the giant 13 dBi sec­tor anten­na I used before I knew what I was doing. Here are the results. 

The obvi­ous take­away is wrong, just FYI. I threw that 13 dBi in there just to see what would hap­pen, know­ing it would have skewed results. Remem­ber, every 3 dB is a dou­bling in pow­er, so a 13 dBi is push­ing out a focused sig­nal more than octu­ple (what a word!) the pow­er of a lit­tle 3 dBi. That means it’ll “win” hands down in every mea­sure of sig­nal strength. 

I was pleased to see the HNTen­na did well, and I was sur­prised how good at least one of the eBay cheap­ies was. I would’ve expect­ed the Laird to do a bit bet­ter, though it def­i­nite­ly had the most mes­sages received. For ref­er­ence, and so you don’t go out and imme­di­ate­ly replace your anten­na with a ridicu­lous­ly over­pow­ered sec­tor, I had that Mega Sec­tor up for a MONTH with earn­ings in the bot­tom 10% of all Heli­um Hotspots before I man­aged to tweak the set­tings and dial down the pow­er sig­nif­i­cant­ly so it’d fall with­in accept­able lev­els. Once I did that it per­formed well, although now that I have the HNTen­na on it it’s doing just as well or bet­ter at about a third of the price and a hun­dreth of the install hassle.

The GLAMOS app real­ly lets you dig around in the data, list­ing out how each anten­na for all the gate­ways that wit­nessed it. Here’s the Laird, for example:

Check out that far right col­umn where it tells you whether or not the sig­nal would have fall­en with­in the cur­rent (PoCv10) RSSI/SNR ratio. That will change with the update to PoCv11. Super useful!

You can use the GLAMOS to test more than anten­nas; you can test loca­tions, whether indoor or out­door will per­form bet­ter, and by how much, and how a long cable might effect your actu­al reach. We haven’t even got­ten into using it for test­ing sen­sors yet, I’ll leave that for anoth­er post.

So, what anten­na should you buy? I’d start by pick­ing up a GLAMOS test­ing unit before I went and bought any more anten­nas. Learn how to use it, then test your anten­nas, test your loca­tions, and deploy a smarter, bet­ter, more effi­cient (and more prof­itable) Heli­um Network. 

So…How Does This Help Me With Providing Coverage and Earning Profit?

Heli­um is a blockchain net­work that rewards users who pro­vide WUPU (Wide, Unique, Prove­able, and Use­ful) cov­er­age. The bet­ter your WUPU cov­er­age, the more you’ll earn. Now, WUPU isn’t a Heli­um met­ric, it’s some­thing I teach peo­ple about to help them under­stand at broad strokes how to assess a poten­tial deploy­ment.

If you want to have a high earn­ing hotspot, test­ing the Wide and Prove­able aspects of cov­er­age is essen­tial. Now, whether or not your cov­er­age is Unique or Use­ful is some­thing you’ll need to assess in dif­fer­ent ways. I’d start with my post on HIP 17 and scal­ing, then check out how to use the Net­work.

Rock on in your Heli­um glo­ry, and best of luck to you in your deployments!


9 responses to “Testing Your Helium Antenna & Placement With A GLAMOS

  1. Randy Armitage Avatar
    Randy Armitage

    Hey Nik
    I went to #map­pers on the Heli­um Dis­cord look­ing for info on how to use my Glam­os to sup­port the map­ping project. Scrolled to the bot­tom of the pinned mes­sages, which led to this article. 

    While infor­ma­tive, the con­tent does­n’t seem to cov­er much of what the title hints at. Am I miss­ing some­thing or is the process of test­ing anten­nas very sim­i­lar to gen­er­at­ing cov­er­age data?
    Thanx ?

  2. Hi Randy, in gen­er­al, good cov­er­age is a proxy for good earn­ings. It’s not pre­cise, as earn­ings will depend on local den­si­ty and scal­ing, but if you want to earn HNT on Heli­um one of the essen­tial aspects is know­ing what cov­er­age your location/antenna com­bo will provide.

  3. Hey!
    Great arti­cle! Love all the data and very thank­ful for your amaz­ing blog here!
    I just recent­ly received my glam­os walk­er (super excit­ing) and I am seem­ing­ly hav­ing the same issue as randy. I got it in order to con­tribute to the heli­um map­ping project and after hav­ing set it up, find myself con­fused on whether I am actu­al­ly con­tribut­ing. Test­ing my own anten­nas is nice (which I’ll try some­time in the future) but I can’t seem to fig­ure out A) If I’m actu­al­ly pro­vid­ing cov­er­age data for the net­work B) How to set­up the glam­os to auto­mat­i­cal­ly con­tribute once turned on.
    Any insight or hints in the right direc­tion would be great.

  4. Hi Nathan, I don’t think there’s an auto-fire Map­per style set­ting on the GLAMOS. It’s designed built to test a bunch of dif­fer­ent spe­cif­ic spots to make sure a sen­sor at that spot can reach a gate­way, not to con­tin­u­ous­ly bea­con in order to pro­vide cov­er­age. I’ll change the name of the post, as it seems to be mis­lead­ing people.

  5. Hey Nik, ques­tion about this assump­tion made in the arti­cle — “Sec­ond, you’ll want to know HOW MANY Hotspots your pro­posed loca­tion can be wit­nessed by. Since bea­cons & wit­ness­es are two sides of the same coin, it’s pret­ty rea­son­able to assume that “if they can hear you, you can hear them.” I’ve just got­ten and set up my min­er recent­ly, inside, stock anten­na, 650 ft above the ground in a high rise over­look­ing the sub­urbs (for back­ground). I’m actu­al­ly find­ing that this assump­tion doesn’t seem to be true, in that I’m get­ting peo­ple wit­ness­ing my bea­cons for 55km+ but I don’t seem to be able to con­nect with any­one beyond a kilo­me­ter of me. Any ideas or thoughts? I’ve read about the prin­ci­ple of anten­na reci­procity, and the only think I can think of is maybe the win­dow that’s in front of the anten­na is block­ing real­ly weak sig­nals and mak­ing them impos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish from noise.

  6. Hi Ben, it’s not tech­ni­cal­ly cor­rect, it’s just a use­ful mod­el to use. It’s like­ly that many hotspots around you are not as well placed. Think about this as well; you always get to know what hotspots wit­nessed your bea­con, but you don’t always win the lot­tery to wit­ness the bea­cons of oth­er hotspots.

  7. Hey Nik, off top­ic here but I heard you on the Hotspot Pod­cast and you did a great job.

    My ques­tion is, you me men­tioned T‑Mo approach­ing a large hotspot fleet own­er with a threat to cut them off. I could not find any­thing on this(articles, etc.). Is there a link you could share?

    Thanks as always and con­grats on your Heli­um com­mu­ni­ty Noble award. (you got my vote!)

  8. Hi Tom, thanks! Noth­ing I can share on that beyond the pod­cast con­vo; the fleet own­er is pret­ty private.

  9. Ful­ly under­stand. Thanks.

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